Addressing Your In-Laws
Top Reasons Why Deciding on Name for In-Laws is Avoided
So why is the issue of what to call your parents-in-law touchier than a teenager in love? Here are the top five reasons:
Fear of rejection.
"I thought that if I called my mother-in-law by her first name, she would think that I was disrespectful," one woman told me. "That would really put the kabosh on our relationship," she concluded. Does this sound familiar? Is this fear standing in your way of deciding what to call your parents-in-law?
Fear of looking foolish.
"What if my mother-in-law didn't want to be called 'Mom'?" Angela said. "I'd really feel like a jerk then." No one wants to embarrass themselves with their in-laws, especially early in the relationship. Better to save the bloopers for the later years when you've built up some credit.
Fear of offending.
Names can hurt more than sticks and stones hurled together. Names have always carried power. Among some Native American tribes, for example, there is a widespread feeling of danger in disclosing one's name, because this will enable an enemy to use magic to work some deadly injury to the person. The ancient Greeks were especially careful to disguise or reverse uncomplimentary names.
Fear of making a cultural gaffe.
As Liz's story illustrates, names are often culturally determined. When people from different cultures marry, they are often unsure of customs, especially those surrounding such a sensitive issue as names.
Fear of seeming disloyal.
Some people have no trouble calling their parents-in-law "Mom" and "Dad." They just said it felt natural. A few people even argued that it might be perceived as a compliment to their own parents.
However, a much larger group of people felt that calling their parents-in-law by the names they used for their own parents was an act of treachery, akin to refusing to listen to Dad's war stories (so what if he never got out of Hoboken?).
"What would my father say if I called my father-in-law 'Dad'?" a friend revealed. No one wants to hurt someone they love. Is this what's preventing you from settling the name issue with your parents-in-law?
It's All Relative
Among the New Guinea Sea Dyaks, people related to each other by marriage never say each other's names, lest they call down the wrath of God.
It's All Relative
Among the African Caffres, a wife is forbidden to say the name of her mother-in-law; a husband cannot say the name of his father-in-law.
More on: Marriage and Divorce
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dealing with In-Laws © 1998 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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